The economic impact of the state’s agriculture industry has nearly tripled in the past 20 years, but the state’s overall economy has grown even faster.
As a result, agriculture’s percentage of the state’s overall economic output has been cut almost in half, according to a report by the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Arizona.
Despite the mixed findings, department head Alan Ker said the report paints a positive picture overall for the state’s agricultural sector.
"I do see it as favorable in that agriculture in Arizona is growing faster than it is nationally," he said. "Agriculture is not what it was 20 years ago in the entire U.S. In 20 years, I anticipate it will be even lower (as a percentage of the overall economy). But agriculture is a necessity, and you can’t do without food."
Arizona farmers have been able to increase the value of their output largely because they have been switching to higher value products such as vegetables and dairy products, Ker said.
The report said the annual economic impact from production agriculture in Arizona is about $3.25 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 1980. In that time, agriculture’s share of the overall Arizona economy declined from 4 percent to 2.1 percent as other sectors such as finance and services have grown faster and increased their relative positions.
Other findings of the study:
• Including direct, induced and ripple effects, agriculture’s output amounts to $6.6 billion annually in Arizona.
• More than 72,000 jobs are created by the state’s agriculture industry, and for every one job in production agriculture, 2.5 jobs are created in the rest of the economy.
• Arizona’s agriculture employment has been relatively stable during the past 20 years while it has declined by about 30 percent for the United States as a whole.
• Agriculture’s percentage share of total employment was more than halved in the past two decades because the total number of jobs in Arizona has more than doubled, and agriculture accounts for less than 1 percent of all jobs in the state.
• The amount of Arizona land devoted to farming has declined slightly in the past 10 years, from 28.3 million acres in 1993 to 26.5 million in 2002.
The study was primarily funded by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Arizona Department of Agriculture, with additional support from the Arizona Farm Bureau, Arizona Cotton Growers Association, Arizona Cattle Growers, Agri-Business Council, Arizona Nursery Association, Western Growers Association, Arizona Agricultural Aviation Association and the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association.
"This study is important because it reminds people living in metropolitan areas of the farmers and ranchers across the state, and the contribution they make to the economy of Arizona," said Don Butler, director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.